Hopes high for Elgin heifers

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Bob GarnantThe West Australian

With more than a quarter of the offering at stake, Elgin cattle supplier Michael Roberts is optimistic about his post-sale results as a vendor at the Elders Boyanup Supreme Springing Heifer Sale on December 9.

“Times have changed since the 1970s when we couldn’t sell a steer for $20,” Mr Roberts said.

However, on the back of an excellent season and with good farm-gate returns for beef cattle as increased demand continues, Mr Roberts is expecting similar buoyant prices as last year.

With his formative years spent on his parent’s dairy farm, Mr Roberts decided in 2006 to leave the dairy industry. “At the time, we needed to either re-invest in infrastructure or look for an alternative farming income,” he said.

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Mr Roberts and his wife, Loretta, had three sons but none had shown an interest in a future in dairy, so a decision to change to a specialised beef cattle enterprise was made.

“We had been trading cattle all along so it was easy to move in that direction,” he said.

With two sons working in London, Mr Roberts and his eldest son, Alex, run 120 breeders.

Mr Roberts said they also bought in about 200 heifers annually. “We source quite a few heifers from dairy farms that put a British beef bull over Friesian cows to produce first-cross calves,” he said.

“We are careful to select on temperament and quality, with these first-cross heifers going into our artificial insemination program, in which we produce pregnancy-tested-in-calf heifers mated to a Limousin bull — a package unit we offer in numbers at the annual Elders sale.”

Mr Roberts said this combination had many benefits, particularly hybrid vigour, good mothering potential and make and shape.

“As part of our Boyanup sale offering this year, we have a line of 107 PTIC synchronised AI Angus-Friesian first-cross heifers, mated to a Limousin bull, that are earmarked to drop calves over a 20-day period, from January 20 to February 9,” he said.

“Another 35 PTIC Murray Grey-Friesian-cross heifers, mated to a Limousin bull, have also been synchronised through AI and are due in that same 20-day time period.”

Eight PTIC Hereford-Friesian first-cross PTIC heifers, AI to a Limousin bull, are also part of the family’s synchronised team.

“This tight calving period can be very beneficial for cattle producers who want to take advantage of such a timeline,” Mr Roberts said.

“One of our long-time clients has been building a herd of our Murray Grey-Friesian-cross heifers and continues to mate these to a Limousin bull.”

The Robertses are also offering naturally mated first-cross heifers with a few options on breed type selections, including a Shorthorn-Friesian cross PTIC line mated to an Angus bull.

“In our offering of PTIC heifers, we have been using a Unison Limousin bull (G31), which has shown good results in quiet calves, with good make and shape,” Mr Roberts said.

Mr Roberts said it was important to weigh the investment costs of buying in stock that would be on-sold for real income.

“It is less risk for us to buy in older heifers, so our feed costs are less as compared to buying much younger calves, which we would be required to feed for over two years,” he said.

“But we must be flexible and consider a range of age groups to keep continuity of supply at the right investment price.”

The Robertses’ breeding herd also works on first-cross-type cows mated to either terminal Charolais or Limousin bulls.

“We have been very successful with using AI in our breeding program and, overall, have been averaging 94 per cent in-calf results,” Mr Roberts said.

“With most of our herd being first-cross heifers of either Angus-Friesian or Murray Grey-Friesian types, I can’t say one is better than the other.”

Elders livestock agent Robert Gibbings said the cattle to be offered at this year’s sale by account KS & EN Roberts & Son were, as usual, in excellent condition.

“We expect to have good buying support from vealer producers who are experiencing the best ever prices for their calves,” he said.

“With strong prices expected to continue and an excellent presentation of heifers on offer, buyers should come to the sale with confidence.”

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